Fictional Frontier: The Tall Tales of Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
“Rustle up some grub at this Old West saloon! Tell tall tales over chicken fajitas, taco trios and the Southwest Burger—all before riding off into the sunset to the taste of sweet treats like mini churros with dipping chocolate.” is how the Walt Disney World official website describes the main dining establishment of Frontierland at The Magic Kingdom. I couldn’t think or a more boring synopsis of the TALL TALE inn. There’s tall tales to be told, the biggest of all being the namesake Pecos Bill. Talked about for a fifteen minute segment during the Disney classic Melody Time, Pecos Bill has brought his legend to the little town of Frontierland. If you need a refresher on the short film you can watch Melody Time on Disney+ right now. Or just watch the clipped short here.
Inside the restaurant you’ll immediately find an ordering area and toppings bar. Snooping around to the far left there’s a fireplace with a photo of Pecos Bill riding his horse, Widowmaker, above. Shockingly enough this is the only picture of Pecos Bill inside, albeit his mug appears on the sign outside.
Heading towards seating is where we find the first piece of the ‘tall tale’ name. See that up near the ceiling?
That’s right, this is Paul Bunyan‘s axe, gigantic blue ox not included. While not exactly larger than life it’s certainly made to look bigger by being put up on the wall instead of next to us. The engraving isn’t exactly easy to read unless you’re literally next to it, and during busier times in the restaurant it’ll be difficult to stop right near a doorway. Continuing our walk into the seating area…
A small foyer greets us again near another entrance to the restaurant. This entrance, although midway through the place, was originally the entrance back in the 70s. This sign telling the story of the Tall Tale Inn & Cafe is pretty interesting and quickly explains why Pecos Bill represents not just Frontierland but the wild west in general.
For the sake of having you zoom-in on the images, I’ve transcribed it below.
“Considered by many as the meanest, toughest, roughest cowboy of them all, Pecos Bill has been credited for inventing all things Western, from rodeos to cowboy dancing, to spurs, hats, and lassoes. He can draw faster, shoot straighter and ride a horse harder than any man alive. Unfortunately we don’t know when and where he was born, just that he was raised by coyotes and that his name comes from the river in Texas. Over the years, Pecos Bill along with his trusty horse Widowmaker, have made quite a name for themselves forging new trails and taming others. Legend tells us several tall tales, like the time Pecos Bill jumped on a powerful twister and rode it like a bucking bronco. Then there was the time when Pecos Bill dug out a path to create the Rio Grande river during a severe drought that hit his beloeved Texas. And then there was the day Pecos Bill was so bored he took his handy six-shooter and shot out all the stars in the sky except for one. That’s why they call Texas the “Lone Star State”. In 1878, with the encouragement of his friends, Pecos Bill decided to open his own watering hole, a restaurant whose motto very much reflects its one-of-a-kind owner. “The tastiest eats and treats this side of the Rio Grande.” Pecos Bill called it the Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and it quickly became a popular hang-out for some of his legendary friends. As time went by it became a tradition when each friend paid a visit they would leave something behind for Pecos Bill to remember them by. As you can see from the articles and artifacts that don the walls, many of which carry inscriptions, Pecos Bill has some mighty impressive friends. Seems that every trail eventually led to the Tall Tale Inn and Cafe”
So it’s not just themed to Pecos Bill because “hey it’s western and we need a western character”, there’s a full story behind it. SHOCKING I KNOW. Paul Bunyan’s axe is the first of many artifacts you’ll find among the wall. I encourage you to check it out for yourself first hand when visiting Magic Kingdom next time!
or continue reading and I’ll show you everything the cafe has to offer without you creeping over random guest heads while they’re trying to eat.
Located literally on the opposite side of the wall that we saw the Pecos Bill story sign, John Henry has left behind not only some railway spikes but also his hammer. Although Disney didn’t release a John Henry short until 2000 these artifacts align with the ‘American Legends’ idea that the Tall Tale Inn is working with.
The hammer isn’t exactly worn like a well-used one would be, but it’s still a really cool representation of this legend.
Here’s the first interesting reach that Pecos Bill takes: Jim Bowie. Before writing this article I had no idea who Jim Bowie was or if it even tied back into Disney somehow. Turns out, it does. The Adventures of Jim Bowie was a television show that ran on ABC from 1956-1958.
The playing cards are representative of a story told of the real Jim Bowie when he threatened and nearly stabbed a cheater at a high stakes poker game. Bowie’s weapon of choice was a knife. This small knife certainly wouldn’t be big enough for him to handle in major combat, but it fits the bill. You can read more about this real American legend here.
Another real life American legend is mentioned towards the back of the restaurant: Annie Oakley. Her amazing sharp shooting skills are showcased here in this shadowbox.
You can see bullet holes in all of the playing cards in the box. Either thrown or held, a single bullet through a playing card is a pretty good indication that her skills were unparalleled.
Slue Foot Sue
Here’s the second big Pecos Bill hit: his (would have been) wife Slue Foot Sue has a photograph hung on a wall. She also left behind her trademark white gloves.
Written out to Billy, with love. or Bill. Pecos Bill.
The Lone Ranger
It’s not a Zorro mask. I know, but hear me out. That silver bullet next to it? That’s the Lone Ranger’s calling card. He only used silver bullets and never aimed to kill but rather disarm.
Another fun piece of this includes the blank name plate next to the frame. The Lone Ranger never said his name, and Pecos Bill wouldn’t either. We know who the items belong to because of the silver bullet but it shouldn’t be written out and it’s not. Putting up no name plate wouldn’t fit the trend set with all the other artifacts though, so this one is blank. Yes, I’m aware that Slue Foot Sue doesn’t have one and either does Widowmaker, but either does Pecos Bill and all three are part of the story.. The Lone Ranger isn’t.
Another American legend with a short story during Melody Time, Johnny Appleseed has left behind his tin pot hat.
I understand why there’s not an apple here, but I would like to see maybe the apple seed sack added. Then again, let’s not touch such an old school location.
The legend of Davy Crockett lives on in numerous locations at Walt Disney World. At Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn he has left behind numerous articles to remember the name by including his famous raccoon skin cap.
Just next to this display is a framed depiction of Davy Crockett’s first rifle. Out of all the characters and legends mentioned in the restaurant he certainly gets the most items.
This display pulls directly from that TV movie where Kit joined a surveying party in the pacific northwest. Kit Carson and the Mountain Men, I’ll have to add it to my Disney+ binge if it’s on there.
There’s one shelf with items from two different legends. Let’s first go over George Russel, Davy Crockett’s best friend.
Yes, it’s Russel with one L. D23.com shows the proper name whereas literally every other website in existence shows the name as Russell. This won’t be a hill I’ll die one but it’s fun to see the internet wrong about something. Or Disney is. But it’s their film and character so..
Anyway, as Davy’s best friend you can tell he was invested in the adventures. So much so he left behind his own memories of Davy.
No, not the Grateful Dead song, but close. Same name same train, less cocaine. Casey Jones is from The Brave Engineer short from Disney back in the 50s.
While the other side having a story about Davy Crockett made that artifact obvious, I can’t for the life of me figure out how these oil cans represent Casey Jones. I really think that there’s something missing from this shelf, either removed purposefully and never replaced or just gone missing. You can watch the Casey Jones short for yourself here and tell me how wrong or right I am. Please.
“Wild Bill” Hickok
Two pair, aces and eights. That’s the dead man’s hand. Wild Bill was a true American legend with a wild legacy. Most notorious being shot and killed during a poker game while wielding the dead man’s hand, which is how that legend was born.
Probably a bit grotesque and potentially bad luck, the cards displayed next to Wild Bill just show a royal flush and not the dead man’s hand. Bummer.
That about finishes our weird tour around Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe. I hope you have a better appreciation for this location now, one that extends beyond a free toppings bar. In reality this post was just an excuse for me to get tacos with all the cheese I can possibly consume.